Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Plazes in google earth

As you know, I am a big fan of Google Earth. I am also a Fan of Plazes. So imagine my excitement when I saw that Plazes is available on Google earth!

It's a great application, you can get it at plazes KML or download it here: www.plazes.com/kml. I can see all my contacts in GE. I can do the nerdy thing of watching people log on and off, and GE takes me there. I can also view all the different places people have visited. My favourite thing was to tour my own places. I have travelled about a bit, but most of my travelling is not logged because I don't log in and cant be bothered to text in.

A great app with potential. If we all had this (or it was linked to GPS) then I can see where my friends, family and colleagues are. Now I know a lot of people don't want to be tracked, but your choice is still there. People that complain about technology interfering in their lives seem to forget that technology doesn't do that, they do that themselves. We all have a choice, so exercise it and stop complaining. I could use the information to decide if I want to, or am able to speak to friend for example. I see that he/she is in the pub, at home, on holiday etc

This could be a communication link in the future also. We could choose to be visible, invisible, anonymous or visible only to some. All these things are available and have been for some time, it takes an app like GE to bring it all together. I come back to my first post on this subject and ask you, is it getting more like an operating system yet?

Written and submitted from home

Saturday, 23 June 2007

64 Whatsits!

64 Bit technology is amongst us! Is it a good thing? What does it mean to the average Joe (you and me)?
Well it's been 10 years or so since we last saw an increase in the processing power of computers, and that is an incredible amount of time in this industry. But the the big question I get asked is "do I need it?" "should I buy it now?" and "what do I get?"
Well the quick answers are "Yes, but not right now", "Yes, if you need a new computer now, but No if you replace your computer every year or so" and "speed, masses of speed".
Of course there is a long answer also. Let me start with the last question. Computers work by having lots of Off/On switches. Each switch can have a state of "On" (or a 1) or "Off" (a 0). The first computers were 4 bit technology, or they could have 4 different 0's or 1's at any one time. This is Binary and equates to 16 different combinations of 0 and 1's.
0000
0001
0010 etc.
We then had 8 bit, 16 bit and the current 32bit you are probably reading this on. The number of simultaneous tasks a computer can do is based on the number of combinations of 0 and 1 available. So 8 bit computers can do 256 things (think of the colour combinations available in the early 80's, 256). Then the 16 bit could do 65536 combinations, 32 bit could do 4,294,967,295 combinations and 64 bit can do 2 to the power of 64. I believe that is a few thousand decillion (in British), might need to look that up! Anyway, that's a very big number. So what does that mean in your life. Well your computer will fly. It can do a lot more simultaneous tasks. By a factor described above. So it won't be twice as fast, it really will fly! Of course 64bit programmes will take advantage of this, so it's more likely your computer will do more rather than be faster by this described factor and therefore, although it will be faster, not by a gazillion times!!
What you need to run a 64bit computer is a 64bit operating system, such a Vista 64bit. You then need a 64bit programme, such as AutoCAD 64bit. If you run a 32bit OS such as XP, or any of your current programmes, you will not be taking advantage of your processing power. So my advice is if you can wait, do so until we have 64bit virus protection, Internet Explorer and all the other programmes you enjoy (or hate for that matter).
So when will this happen? Well, think about mobile phones, how long did that take, and what was the driver? It was cost v's need. When the cost came down below the value of the requirement there was an explosion in adoption. With computers, the driver will be basically the same with the exception of the fact that the market is already established. People's replacements will speed up the adoption. It's happening now, and we will be all using 64bit computers in our homes within a couple of years at a guess.
Of course the main advantage is the new applications we will get. For example, google earth could not have been created until we had fast enough computers and internet speeds. What will be round the corner? Live imagry on GE? VR games that look live films? Virtual highstreets? Well maybe not yet, but they will come and it's up to us to foresee, demand and then create such a reality from the vision.
Written and submitted from the garden in between the storms!

Friday, 15 June 2007

Energy consumption (Original post 29/3/7)

Why is my boiler so inefficient? I have a combi. Named as such for reasons beyond my understanding, but also useless. By the time the hot water has reached the tap I have wasted a sink full. More often then not, I have done what I need to and all I have achieved is to heat the water in the pipes!

It can't be difficult, can it?

Why doesn't my tap heat the water? Lots of small heaters only heating up the water I use. This surely must be more energy efficient.

I wonder what the problems would be? Probably a more immediate question has to be, what is the extent of the problem? How much water, electricity, money etc do we actually waste? What would be the cost of producing such a device and what would be the roi, presuming it would be viable?

So many questions, no time!

Written & submitted from the Holiday Inn, Garforth

Technology (Original post 5/5/7)

Sometimes I see the vision of the Digital World being only a few years away. With the advent of apps like Google earth and satnav becoming mainstream along with hardware advances allowing LBServices to be explored more. And the CGI we see in films (remember a lot of that technology comes from the same people who produce software that designs our buildings, structures and produce GIS software and ground modelling software) coupled with speed of technological advances.

Then I see the massive gap we have in interoperability even within their own organisations. I also see the poor application of new services from the large companies, such as Orange, Vodaphone. I see the messages from these organisations who are telling us we need to "change the game". I just can't help wondering, just how close are we? Is 10 years, 30 years? Will I see it in my life time?

My current thought on this is that I won't see it. There are too many bold steps needed to be taken by too many large organisations with shareholders to answer for. Yes there is a large community of people who have nothing to loose doing some great things, and new large companies have taken the corporate world into a new era, but it's not enough. We need to do more, collaborate more, be bolder and adopt more readily. This has to happen both on an individual level and a corporate one. We have to take more risks, as a business and a consumer, and in doing so, we have to accept a level of failure. Do not confuse that with incompetance however, we never need accept that.

Written and sent from my garden. Subsequently edited from Home

Earthquake in Kent (Original post 27/3/7)

Well another UK earthquake, and more very 'British' responses, my favourite of which so far is a guy from Kent who said 'It was about 8:15 when the bed shook violently. I thought my wife had cramp, then I noticed the curtains moving'

Only in Britain would your first thought be, when the bed starts shaking violently first thing in the morning, 'my wife has cramp'!!!

On another note, for all you non believers in the importance of GI, I bet you didn't start to feel anything until you saw the map of the area with the circles showing it's magnitude. It's at that point your brain associates the text (Kent, 4.6 etc) with the actual event. You subconsciously can then associate it with your own life.

Written and submitted from a mobile email device in a very sunny garden

Graphene (Original post 27/4/7)

An interesting new material has been discovered by the boffins at Manachester and Chernogolovka. It's called Graphene (hence the tittle of this post!). It's a two-dimensional molecule with unusual conductivity properties. "So!" I hear you say. Well, the difference in it's properties is that they can make a transistor out of it. Normally at these sorts of scales electrons react in very strange ways, for example an elctron can travel from A to B without passing throught the space inbetween - don't ask me how, you need to ask the bofins that one - but not so with Graphene, the conductivity is more stable without this "scattering" of electrons.

I know, I still hear you saying "so!!". Well, for those of you that know of "Moores Law", the one that states "the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every 18 months" it is reconed by some that the ability to do this with silicon will be finite, and in fact it will be not possible to increase the number by about 2020 or so.

So a replacement is the new "holy grail" of computing, and the ability to create chips on an atomic level will be a massive leap forward. Imagine the power of your pc in a chip the size of a grain of sand. Imagine all the items in the world having a chip, an IP address, accountability, locatability and ultimately intelligence. The benefits are massive, and only limited by our imaginations and the fact that my daughter wants me to get off the compter and play with her!!!!

So I had better go, and will no doubt re-visit this later,

Written and submitted from home

Google Earth (original post 29/03/07)

Google again! I found a great application for your GE that highlights a great opportunity for the commercial world and shows GE as an important marketing tool. Look at http://www.gearthhacks.com/dlfile23251/Grey-Cup-2006-EarthSkin.htm.

This cool app is of a Canadian Football team (not "Soccer"). Great for fans, but this one is quite different to the usual 3D models. It links to ticket master, with a seating plan. It shows a video screen, with a live link for action and adverts, and also the advertising bollards around the pitch are live linked too. It also links to other events in the area. A massive revenue stream potential as the "readership" of GE increases. It maybe sporting events that drive GE into the home as a serious operating system. You could take this one step further with a live video of the game shown on the pitch with sponsors and advertisers links being instant and dynamic. See something you like, then go there now!

What if you could see the action on video or have the option for 3D models showing the action/action replay. Not yet, but I think maybe sooner than you think!

Whilst looking at this I came across a file (see image) created from a shape file and a database of house prices used in conjunction with the time line plug in. It's not clever, but a starting point for linking the sort of information on www.upmystreet.com putting this great web site of tabular spatial information on a spatial app, making sense of GI in a relevant format

Written and submitted from Home

The long journey home! (Original post 28/3/7)

It occurred to me the other day that there are an awful lot of people making the same journey every working day. No revelation there then! However, when I got stuck in traffic because of roadworks, I had no warning of the impending frustration until I was in it. The TA from my RDS didn't switch at the right time, and when it did I got the traffic for Sheffield!!

So, I thought I would log onto the Highways Agency web site to see if this info was available there, and it wasn't, or at least I couldn't find it given the small screen on my phone, the fact that it's illegal to use your phone for it's intended purpose whilst driving let alone surfing the web and the fact that I needed the info now, not in 20 minutes when I finally navigate to the correct place.

Someone has written a cool GE overlay for Paris that shows the traffic congestion there, albeit on a 1 hour refresh rate. I don't know the quality of the information, nor its recency as I don't commute to Paris! but it did get me thinking. (Not again I hear you say!!)

My TOM TOM is brilliant, however it does miss a vital function. That is to learn a route and store preferable routes in it. I suppose the premise here is that if you know your route, why would you use TOM TOM? Well I, and many others around me, like TOM TOM to be on, even on the commute, so that if the traffic snarls up (a regular occurrence for millions of drivers) then we can quickly decide on another option. One day whilst taking my colleague to work, he showed me a "rat run" that shaved loads of time off my journey. When I tried to re-create this short cut on my own..... well, those of you that know me well will know the outcome of that!!!

I can get traffic on my TOM TOM but they want £10 per month!! I suppose this would be good value for someone like me (but less tight!!) who travels a lot, but for the majority of us, it can't be good value. We travel the same journey, every working day, and even know the short cuts and alternatives should things get sticky. For me however, on my journey to the office, the alternative has to be decided on very early, otherwise if it goes Pete Tong, I just have to wait it out. Also, my TOM TOM will always route me the worst way home because they cannot/will not configure it for peak time traffic (even though the data is there!)

Why can't traffic reports be instant? Why can't they be relevant to my journey? Why can't they be given to anyone in a car with phone?

They can!! LBS is one route, but not the only route (excuse the pun!) We can get the data from LA's, the Highways Agency, the Utilities or this mystical consortium who reportedly co-ordinates the digging up of roads. We can filter the data to you're pre-defined route, calculate you're best alternative based on you're preferred alternatives. We can deliver the information live, as it happens direct to you via e-mail, text, voice, VoIP or why not commands to you're TOM TOM? We could deliver it via XML or KML, although it's a bit early to start to talk about GE in you're car (but it will come).

It's an idea that is worth some thought, and if you have any, or know of a better way of me getting home, or a tool that is already developed to do any of the above, then please let me know.

Written and submitted from home

Nonstandard locality-based text entry patent (Original post 20/3/7)

WHAT! I hear you say!!!

Well, this is very big news in the world of the computer, in particular LBS or Location Based Services. Google have filed a patent in the US [click the here to see it] called the "Nonstandard locality-based text entry patent" and if you can't be bothered to read it it is very exiting (to me anyway)

Google are releasing a cleaver search functionality that wil predict what you are going to type based not only on predictive text input, but on your location, the time of day and other things such as habits. Here is an extract:

"[0048] The data may also be changed based on the time of day or a person's location. For example, search terms relating to restaurants may be emphasized during times when a user is likely to be hungry. Also, the global positioning system may be employed so that a user's data entry is targeted to the user's location. As one example, the system may recognize when a user is away from their home, and thus traveling, and may thus update the dictionary with information more relevant to a traveler, such as restaurant and airline information. In addition, the system may add to a user's standard dictionary information about locations that are proximate to the user, such as the names of nearby towns, streets, attractions, and buildings. For example, if a user is located in Alexandria, Virginia, the system may provide dictionary data to the device for terms such as Arlington, Washington, Capitol, Reagan-National, and Dulles."

This is truly groundbraking and has come at exactly the right time, to iron out all the bugs before LBS is given to the masses. Take this one step further, and remove my input. Imagine the scanrio, I'm traveling home from work, it's getting late, so my phone suggest's it's getting late, and that I may not have time to go home and cook a meal, but don't despair, there is a take-away 1/2 a mile ahead, but not any old take-away, it's your favorite, Italian.

The Patent talks about many other technologies such as VoP (Voice over IP) and the bi-directional flow of data, sugesting that the device may send and receive commands as well as information. This doesn't seem to be pushed by all the usual bloggers, but could just be a massive leap forward in LBS. Maybe, just maybe, not only will the device suggest a particular take-away, it may just ask you if you would like directions, and start your Tom Tom. What if it would also phone the restaurante and order for you?

I could talk for ever on actual applications for this technology, but it's getting late and I have some work to do.

Written and sent from home

A debate!! (Original post 9/3/7)

It would appear that Michael Wesch has sparked a debate. Have a look at the top video now. Another prospective on the web and a perfect example of what the internet stands for; Information, opinion, truth, lies, entertainment, news.....LIFE. The real world is being built in an exiting if somewhat embellished cyber space. Take from it what you want, enjoy it, but don't need it.
I recon that you will never receive the touch and feel of the real world in cyber space, but there is a place for that and some people will fall into that place, and be lost to the real world. It's like taking drugs, and should be treated as such to the extent of ensuring we have enought people in reality to manage the people (and machines) out of reality.......bugger me, it's the Matrix!!!

Written and sent from Home

Web version 2.0 (Orginal post 9/3/7)

Web version 2.0, what's that all about then? Rather than trudging through all the information on Wikipedia and the like take a look at the video I have posted, courtesy of Michael Wesch from Kansas University. He posted this on YouTube and it is a brilliant 5 minute lesson in Web V2.0. 

Put this way, it all makes sense and follows lots of principals in other technologies such as GIS. Tim Berners-Lee has been busy!!

By the way, this site is a mash up, based on the principals of Web V2.0. Note there is content added either by RSS (Really Simple Syndication) or via code directly imbedded into the "gadget" (the video) that I haven't written, it's taken directly from another site, and when they update, I update without having to do a thing! How cool is that??

Written and sent from Home

Google Earth (original post 20/01/07

I know I keep barking on about it, but Google earth really is the future of computing. Our digital planet is being built quite nicely. With more and more WMS (Web Mapping Services) being available from some of the worlds leading organisations such as NASA and live links connecting to some exiting servers giving us information about our environment it really is moving at an alarming(ly good) rate.


The new time feature is very cool. You can now look at the earth over a period of time. NASA's "Blue Marble" imagery looks fantastic animated over a year, watching the ice caps contracting and expanding is great. Add live cloud coverage (up to 3 hour refresh rate) and live sunlight position and you really get a realistic view of the earth.

But don't think of GE as a "cool" toy, it's a fantastic teaching tool, information tool, analysis tool and operating system. Yes you did read that right "operating system"! Take the view "every thing happens somewhere" and the fact that you just want to write to someone, book your flights, meet someone, buy from someone. Now everything you do digitally has some form of geographical reference, why not use that reference.

My favorite link is the US air travel one (can't remember the author) Pick an airport and you will be returned a list of all the flights currently in the air. Select the flight and GE takes you there. A couple of clicks more and you can board the plane as either a stowaway or a skype user (where you can see if the plane has any other skypers on board to talk to. Cool!) You now have a 3D model of said plane in it's real place in the sky. Take the pilots view or have a look around. Updates are currently every 5 seconds, but you can see where this will end up can't you.Sent from a mobile email device chilin' on the sofa